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1st ESB Branch of The Savings Bank marks its 42nd year in operation at Wakefield Memorial High School

The 2023-2024 school year marks the 42nd year of operation for the 1st Educational Savings Branch of The Savings Bank at Wakefield Memorial High School. Six high school students in the senior and junior classes ran the student-operated banking branch office in the fall semester and an incoming class of four students is set to take over in the spring semester.

 “We’re excited to partner with Wakefield Memorial High School staff and students once again this full school year,” Bob DiBella, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Savings Bank said. “The Savings Bank is proud of the accomplishments and the role that the 1st Educational Savings Branch of The Savings Bank has played in the lives of thousands of Wakefield students during the past 42 years.”

According to Ally Houghton, The Savings Bank Marketing Coordinator who serves as the 1st Educational Savings Branch program manager, the following WMHS seniors and juniors served as student officers of the 1st Educational Savings Branch of The Savings Bank in the fall semester: seniors Vishal Punj, Evan Chan, Nathan Bonassera, and Sofia Longo; and juniors David and Maeve Schermerhorn. The incoming spring class includes seniors Sophia Aboura, Brian Purcell, Rita Sarkissian, and Jack Stromski.

Student banking officers work with liaisons from The Savings Bank and the high school, serving as tellers, taking deposits, making withdrawals, and acting as loan officers. In past years, many students went on to work for The Savings Bank during the summer, with some finding employment at the Bank after graduation.

The 1st Educational Savings Branch of The Savings Bank first opened on April 6, 1981, after more than a year of preparation and planning by the Bank and school personnel. According to Bank President DiBella, the seed for a student banking facility was planted by then-Bank President Donald E. Garrant who envisioned a financial education program that would benefit students and the community. It was his vision that students would learn financial skills that would last a lifetime while potentially carving out career paths for those who were instrumental in operating the student bank each year.

The Savings Bank, known then as the Wakefield Savings Bank, requested a hearing from the Massachusetts Banking Commission in December 1980 setting the wheels in motion for approval of a student-operated and student-run banking facility at the high school. Students, Bank officers and staff, and school administrators and staff requested the hearing after more than 15 months of behind-the-scenes work. The group focused on the premise that although state law strictly regulated the creation of new banking facilities, a provision in the statute permitted an existing institution to establish a banking operation for educational purposes. In a first for the Banking Commission, a hearing was held outside its Boston office, and approval was granted soon after by Banking Commissioner Gerald Mulligan, creating the first student-operated bank branch office in the country.

Its name was selected from among entries submitted by students and the student-operated banking branch opened its doors for business during lunch periods on Monday, April 6, 1981. At the end of its first year, the student branch realized $100,000 in deposits and presented the School Department with $2,000. Since 1981, The Savings Bank and the First Educational Savings Branch have donated approximately $80,000 to the Wakefield School Department.

“Because of Donald Garrant’s forward-thinking ideas, more than 160 Wakefield Memorial High School have gained valuable experience as student officers, and thousands of students, not only WMHS students but all Wakefield students, have had an opportunity to open bank accounts at their school,” the Bank President continued. “As a result of the success of the student banking facility, The Savings Bank created the Children Learning to Understand Banking (C.L.U.B.) at all elementary schools, the Galvin Middle School and St. Joseph’s School which was also coordinated with the help of the high school bankers.”

“The Savings Bank is thrilled that after 42 years, 1st Educational Savings Branch is still educating students at Wakefield Memorial High School on the importance of financial literacy and providing internship opportunities to students,” program manager Ally Houghton added.

During the past 42 years, the 1st Educational Savings Branch has served as a model for other student-operated bank branches around the world. Bankers from as far away as Singapore and Dublin traveled to Wakefield in its early years to see the banking branch in operation, in addition to those who came from all corners of the country to observe the student bankers at work.

Locally, Wakefield Town Council unanimously declared April 6, 2021, as the 1st Educational Savings Branch Day in Wakefield during its 40th anniversary celebration in 2021.

To honor the late Donald Garrant and his commitment to financial education and literacy, The Savings Bank established the Donald E. Garrant Foundation in 2001. The foundation has awarded financial grants to organizations and institutions in the communities served by the Bank, including approximately $190,000 to financial education programs in Wakefield since its inception.

 “It was the hard work of representatives from The Savings Bank, the school department, and students that brought the idea of a first-in-the-nation student banking branch to fruition. It is a tribute to them that the First Educational Savings Branch has continued to be a vital asset in the community,” Bank President DiBella concluded.

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